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Monday 23 July 2018

Instagram ignored plea from father of paedophile victim (11)

'I would also like to point out that when I contacted Instagram to let it know what this person was doing, it never replied' - father of victim

Paedophile Matthew Horan, from Clondalkin, Dublin, outside court last week
Paedophile Matthew Horan, from Clondalkin, Dublin, outside court last week
Paedophile Matthew Horan, from Clondalkin, Dublin, outside court last week
Catherine Noone: 'They're facilitating the abuse - in technical terms, their platforms are facilitating the abuse'

Robin Schiller, Ryan Nugent and Kevin Doyle

Social media giant Instagram ignored the pleas of a man who tried to report that his young child had been sexually exploited by paedophile Matthew Horan on the platform.

In a statement to RTÉ's 'Liveline', the father, whose 11-year-old daughter was coerced into sending graphic images to the depraved sex offender, claimed that Instagram did not respond to him when he attempted to notify it of the crimes.

The social media firm was one of four online apps used by Horan to sexually exploit his victims, some aged as young as nine.

A spokeswoman for Instagram said that while it could not confirm or deny the father's account, it had worked closely with gardaí investigating Horan. Instagram previously told the Irish Independent that it had "zero tolerance for child exploitation".

Paedophile Matthew Horan, from Clondalkin, Dublin, outside court last week
Paedophile Matthew Horan, from Clondalkin, Dublin, outside court last week

Last Friday, the paedophile was jailed for seven and a half years for his crimes following a lengthy Garda investigation that uncovered evidence as far back as April 2014.

In a statement read out on air by broadcaster Joe Duffy, the father of one of Horan's victims said that questions had to be asked over why Instagram did not "get in touch with gardaí" to report Horan's crimes.

Catherine Noone: 'They're facilitating the abuse - in technical terms, their platforms are facilitating the abuse'
Catherine Noone: 'They're facilitating the abuse - in technical terms, their platforms are facilitating the abuse'

"I would also like to point out that when I contacted Instagram to let it know what this person was doing, it never replied," the man's statement read.

He also asked if there was a law that states social media sites are obliged to report this to gardaí.

Detectives were so concerned that Horan would continue to prey on vulnerable girls after being charged that officers presented a wealth of evidence at his bail hearing to ensure that he was kept in custody.

One of Horan's victims described how she was terrified that the sex offender would "go after" her after finding out where she lived.

"I want to prevent this happening to anyone else. I thought chatting to strangers online was safe. It was like making a new friend. It made me feel ashamed, alone and mostly scared. I'm still sad, angry and disappointed in myself."

Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone, who quizzed a number of social media giants at the Oireachtas Children's Committee last month, said that in practical terms, the likes of Instagram are providing the platform where the grooming is taking place.

However, Ms Noone said they were not in turn providing an adequate duty of care to their users. "They're facilitating the abuse - in technical terms, their platforms are facilitating the abuse," Ms Noone said.

The senator added that she was not satisfied with the answers provided by social media companies at committee, and said they had to do more to protect children from predators online.

"They need to spend a greater proportion of the revenue they have in coming up with ways to counteract this," she said.

At Cabinet today, Communications Minister Denis Naughten will informally raise the establishment of a digital safety officer with powers to force companies to take down offensive material.

Mr Naughten said that he could not comment on specific cases, but added the country "took a collective shiver when details emerged of Matthew Horan's sickening crimes".

Irish Independent

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